Over the past ten years, the translation into English of Elena Ferrante’s novels—including Troubling Love, The Days of Abandonment, The Lost Daughter, and the first three volumes of the tetralogy known in English as the Neapolitan Novels—have won her a passionate following outside her native Italy; the fourth of the Neapolitan Novels will appear in English, as The Story of the Lost Child, this fall. It is now common to hear Ferrante called the most important Italian writer of her generation, yet since the original publication of her first novel, Troubling Love, in 1992, she has rigorously protected her privacy and has declined to make public appearances. (“Elena Ferrante” is a pen name.) She has also refused to give any interviews over the telephone or in person, until now.
Her interviewers—her publishers, Sandro and Sandra Ferri, and their daughter, Eva—describe how the interview was conducted:
“Our conversation with Ferrante began in Naples. Our original plan was to visit the neighborhood depicted in the Neapolitan Novels, then walk along the seafront, but at the last moment Ferrante changed her mind about the neighborhood. Places of the imagination are visited in books, she said. Seen in reality they may be hard to recognize; they are disappointing, they might even seem fake. We tried the seafront, but in the end, because it was a rainy evening, we retreated to the lobby of the Hotel Royal Continental, just opposite the Castel dell’Ovo.
“From here, out of the rain, we could every so often glimpse people passing along the street and imagine the characters who have for so long occupied our imaginations and our hearts. There was no particular need to meet in Naples, but Ferrante, who was in the city for family reasons, invited us and we took advantage of the occasion to celebrate the completion of The Story of the Lost Child. The conversation continued late into the night and resumed the next day over lunch (clams), then again in Rome, at our house (tea and tisane). At the end, each of us had a notebook full of notes. We compared them and reorganized the material according to Ferrante’s directions.”